Augusto de Campos: walfischesnachtgesang / cançãonoturnadabaleia

Augusto de Campos, walfischesnachtgesang / cançãonoturnadabaleia from Despoesia (1990).

In popular parlance, “concrete poetry” is taken to be synonymous with “visual poetry,” whose focus on layout, typography, word splicing and repetition results in poems to be seen rather than heard or read silently. But in the hands of its best practitioners, from Oyvind Fahlsltröm to Carl Andre, concretism has always involved what James Joyce called the “verbivocovisual.” In a given poem—or “constellation” as the Brazilian concretists called it—the visual, sonic and semantic dimensions of a poem cannot be separated: form equals meaning. Then too, concrete poetry, as in Augusto de Campos’s later texts, shades naturally into conceptualism: the issue is not one of finding original words and phrases but of appropriating existing ones and putting them in new contexts. Further, the concrete poem is frequently what I have called a differential text: it begins as printed page but may morph into sculpture, sound piece, digital composition or video.

Become a subscriber to Art in Print to continue reading.

Subscriptions start at just $38 and include instant access to our digital archive.